Andre Villas-Boas’ ill-fated spell at Chelsea damaged both the ego and reputation of a young manager whose stock had previously been at an all time high. The 2010/11 season had seen the then Porto manager sweep all before him as his team triumphed in the Europa League and the Portuguese league as well as the Portuguese equivalent of both the Charity Shield and the FA Cup. It was a season that raised the profile of not just the manager but also a number of players within the squad, some of who also earned moves abroad.
33 at the time, Villas-Boas was appointed by Roman Abramovich in an attempt to bring Porto’s slick, attacking football to a Chelsea team burdened by the stereotype of a more rugged, physical approach.
In hindsight, his task at Chelsea was always a difficult one. There were too many strong personalities in the Chelsea dressing room, many of them not a dissimilar age to Villas-Boas himself. The challenge of moving from the Portuguese to English league was a tall order in itself, to take that in his stride whilst revamping a squad full of such established players seemed near enough impossible.
Those lessons, however, will not have gone unlearned. Appointed as Tottenham’s new manager in the wake of Harry Redknapp’s unfortunate demise, there are those who cite his turbulent months as Chelsea as an indication that he is not suited to this league.
How anybody can make that assumption after witnessing Villas-Boas receive less than a year to prove himself is a bit of a mystery. If players and managers were only judged on their first six months then Thierry Henry would have been a complete flop.
The difference in both the attitude and style of Tottenham and Chelsea cannot be underestimated. Tottenham’s squad is young and hungry for success, like their new manager. Harry Redknapp’s brand of football might not mimic that of Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona but these Spurs’ players are used to playing attacking football and a high defensive line, like their new manager.
Tired with short-term fixes and an often-outdated management of the club, Daniel Levy has found, in Villas-Boas, a manager to match his own progressive nature. As Jose Mourinho’s chief scout of opposition at Chelsea, Villas-Boas refined his meticulous approach to games. His moves are calculated, his teams have an ethos and you wouldn’t ever catch him telling one of his players to ‘just f*****g run around a bit’.
Redknapp was undoubtedly a talented man-manager, but football is more than that. When Harry Redknapp won the FA Cup with Portsmouth he said it was the best moment of his career, at 33 years old his Portuguese replacement has already won more trophies. And he did it in one season.
Villas-Boas might not be the most popular choice but he can take Tottenham to a level that Redknapp was unable to. It is the perfect club for Villas-Boas; as long as he can keep hold of his best players for one more season he can begin to mould them in to a team in his image.
He has learned his lessons from Chelsea, there were signs of that even after a few months when he stopped playing with such a high defensive line.
Moreover, whilst Tottenham already have many of the players that he needs for success the pressure to get results immediately will not be anywhere near as high as it was at Chelsea. The difference between Levy telling you he will support you and Abramovich telling you the same thing could be the difference between success and failure.
Daniel Levy and Tottenham know this. There will have been a host of suitors for the job at Spurs. A richly backed club, based in London with a loyal fan base and a brilliant squad is the perfect recipe for a successful club. All Tottenham needed was the perfect manager. In Andre Villas-Boas they have found that.
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